Sidekick, Pitchman, Trusted Friend Ed McMahon Dead At 86
It was a little over one year ago when all anyone could hear, and then remember about the famous, almost indelible sidekick of late night television, Ed McMahon was that he was about to loose his multi-million dollar mansion to foreclosure. He appeared on many entertainment shows, getting the word out so that he might get some help with his plight and use it as a story to maybe gain some additional attention for the causes he was involved in.
Well, Ed McMahon did not have to move out of his house, in the end, for he still called it his residence until today. Ed McMahon has passed away, and was pronounced dead at the Ronald Reagan/UCLA Medical Center, his publicist, Howard Bragman, reported Tuesday ... Ed McMahon was 86.
Ed McMahon in his most familiar pose, next to Johnny Carson - He's one of the few stars who used to answer his phone or return calls, without the intercession of an army of millionaire publicists or managers or agents. Image Credit: The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson
This excerpted and edited from CNN -
Ed McMahon dies at 86
CNN - By Todd Leopold - 6-23-2009
Carson made cracks about McMahon's weight, his drinking and the pair's trouble with divorce. McMahon was married three times; Carson, who died in 2005, had four wives.
McMahon was also the show's designated pitchman, a talent he honed to perfection during "Tonight's" 30-year run with Carson, even if sometimes the in-show commercial spots fell flat.
For one of the show's regular sponsors, Alpo dog food, McMahon usually extolled the virtues of the product while a dog eagerly gobbled down a bowl. But one day the show's regular dog wasn't available, and the substitute pooch wasn't very hungry.
McMahon recalled the incident in his 1998 memoir, "For Laughing Out Loud."
"Then I saw Johnny come into my little commercial area. He got down on his hands and knees and came over to me. ... I started to pet Johnny. Nice boss, I was thinking as I pet him on the head, nice boss. By this point the audience was hysterical. ... I just kept going. I was going to get my commercial done. 'The next time you're looking at the canned dog food ...' -- he rubbed his cheek against my leg -- " ... reach for the can that contains real beef.' Johnny got up on his knees and started begging for more. I started petting him again ... and then he licked my hand."
Though McMahon was well-rewarded by NBC -- the 1980 People article listed his salary between $600,000 and $1 million -- his divorces and some poor investments took their toll. In June 2008, The Wall Street Journal reported that McMahon was $644,000 in arrears on a $4.8 million loan for a home in Beverly Hills, California, and his lender had filed a notice of default.
McMahon and his wife, Pamela, told CNN's Larry King that McMahon had gotten caught in a spate of financial problems. "If you spend more money than you make, you know what happens. And it can happen. You know, a couple of divorces thrown in, a few things like that," said McMahon, who added that he hadn't worked much since the neck injury.
McMahon later struck a deal that allowed him to stay in the house.
He is survived by his wife, Pamela, and five children. A sixth child, McMahon's son Michael, died in 1995.
McMahon, 86, was hospitalized in February with pneumonia and other medical problems.
What was the actual character of Ed McMahon? Well, this article written by Verne Gay about a year ago for Newsday in the TV Zone section was quite revealing and exposes another character quality that seems in short supply in our culture today, here in the early 21st Century.
This excerpted and edited from Newsday -
Ed McMahon: Pass the Hat?
The TV Zone - Posted by Verne Gay on June 5, 2008
Ed was trusted by Johnny Carson. The best I can tell, Carson trusted him COMPLETELY. Very few people earned a Carson seal-of-approval, including his former wives. Besides his nephew, Jeff Sotzing, and longtime friend, producer, confidante, Peter Lassally, Ed is the only person who comes immediately to mind who, in fact, did.
Now, what did this mean? After a lifetime in the business, Carson knew - intuitively and through practical experience (Joan Rivers!!) - that most of the people who were nice to him were BS-artists who trafficked in the fluff and ephemera of show-biz. They were NICE but only superficially "nice." Ed was the real deal.
Evidence? He could have sold a Carson memoir for millions - you know, one of those hideous tomes about the "real" Johnny Carson that would have forced you to take a shower after/ or while reading... And don't think that for someone who lost hundreds of millions, as Ed did over the last few years, that that wouldn't have been a temptation.
For almost half a century, Ed was the consummate loyalist: He never said a cross word about JC, and never told tales out of school. He was - in other words - a genuine friend, in a place (Hollywood) where genuine friends are as common as polar bears.
So here's to Ed, lying in bed with a broken neck and wondering when the repo man will come knocking. He's a good man and a loyal friend. Nothing wrong with that.
Hhhheeeeeerrrree, at MAXINE, we will long live the memory, and style of Ed McMahon.